Wages and prices

An allegedly good news story today is that “wages catch up with inflation”. It’s a while since I’ve seen a more misleading statistic. Wages have not caught up with inflation at all. What has happened is that the annual rate of increase in wages (now 1.7%) is greater than the annual rate of increase in consumer prices (now 1.6%). However, given that prices have been increasing faster than wages for some years now, wages have quite a bit of catching … Continue reading

Tamiflu: it’s a bit more complicated than that

Tamiflu is in the news again today. You will no doubt have read about how the government wasted vast sums of money on stockpiling Tamiflu, which today’s new research shows is completely ineffective. Well, that’s what the press release said, anyway. And journalists are pretty good at regurgitating press releases. Here are some examples (though to be fair, they do at least all include a very brief mention that Roche disagrees, if you read that far). The reality, however, is a … Continue reading

Dianthus Medical now has a YouTube channel

We have now well and truly joined the social media age with our own YouTube channel. Our first video is about my recent trip to Vienna for the DIA conference. We’re very much open to suggestions about what other content you’d like to see on there. Video explanations of interesting statistical phenomena, perhaps? Or anything else. Please let us know if you have any ideas.

Student tuition fees and disadvantaged applicants

One of the most significant political events of the current Parliament has been the huge increase in student tuition fees, which mean that most university students now need to pay £9000 per year for their education. One of the arguments against this rise used by its opponents was that it would put off young people from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university. Supporters of the new system argued that it would not, as students can borrow the money via a … Continue reading

Should we eat 7 portions of fruit and veg a day?

Today’s big health news story is a new study showing that eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day is not enough, and that we all need to eat at least 7. According to The Guardian, “Eating at least seven portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day was linked to a 42% lower risk of death from all causes.” That’s one of my pet hates in health reporting right there: nothing you do lowers your risk of death from … Continue reading

The zombie statistic that just won’t die

I have written more than once before about how the commonly heard statistic “50% of all clinical trials are not published” is nonsense. It is a zombie statistic: no matter how many times you try to kill it, it just keeps on coming. And now it turns out its supporters are becoming increasingly dishonest in their attempts to defend it. The zombie statistic appeared again in the last few days on the Pharmafile website. This was presented as being news, … Continue reading


As some of you may know, I’m currently studying towards a degree in social sciences with the Open University in what I laughingly refer to as my spare time. At the moment, I’m doing a psychology module. I went to a tutorial last night, in which we discussed (among other things) the fascinating concept of memory: how we store and retrieve memories, and the various things that can go wrong with that process. This reminded me of a really bizarre … Continue reading

DIA EuroMeeting, Vienna

We’ll be exhibiting at the DIA EuroMeeting in Vienna on 25–27 March. If you’re going to be at the conference, I do hope you’ll stop by and say hello. We’ll be on stand Y511. We’ll be showing a demo of our new interactive web-based randomisation system (IWRS). We might even have sweeties as well.

Dubai Miracle Garden and the strange lack of insects

I’m currently in Dubai to deliver some training in clinical study design to a group of medical advisers from a pharmaceutical company. I’d heard that Dubai is a fascinating place and I’ve never been here before, so I arranged my schedule to give myself a little time to have a look around. Since I’m rather fond of plants (as you might have guessed from the name of the company), I spent my free afternoon visiting the Dubai Miracle Garden. This … Continue reading

Big data

I gave a talk yesterday at a CCRA event about big data, and promised the audience I’d post my slides on my blog. So for the benefit of anyone who was at the talk who wants a record of what I said, or even for anyone who wasn’t at the talk who is interested in a few of my random thoughts on big data, here are my slides.